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on 25 September 2003
I was drawn to this because I like anything set in India and I had read a review (Sunday Times?) which spoke of its evocative descriptions of Kerala in the south. The book more than lived up to the billing, written with elegant poise and a true understanding of that complicated country. If anything, I found the Delhi scenes even more evocative.
What I wasn't prepared for was the gruesome descriptions of child sacrifice and sati, which left me literally reeling. The book really should carry a warning of some sort. It was only later that I realised that was the whole point - these are the sort of barbaric stories the West often - and mistakenly - associates with India, a theme that runs through the book.
It's powerful, page turning stuff, lifting the Cardamon Club way above the thriller genre, but I just hope pray those scenes were the product of his rich imagination rather than based on real life.
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VINE VOICEon 8 March 2012
I came across the author after reading 'Dead Spy Running' so, although the storyline is quite different, this one moves along similar lines.

The book was released some years ago but since India is playing its role as an up-and-coming big player in international prestige, this story is very relevant. A British born Indian doctor, Raj Nair, co-opted by MI6, is sent to Delhi ostensibly to help out at the High Commission but, in reality, to do a spot of spying.

As we all know from the many books abounding, spying is a mug's game, someone, somewhere will be caught up in events over which they have no control and which they don't initially understand. This one is no different. What sets it apart is the author's ability to create the atmosphere of the intensity of Delhi and the rather more laid back southern India, around Kerala, the birthplace of Raj's father.

In a way, the reader is lulled into a false sense of well being, even though we know that there will be intrigue and mayhem underscoring the story. What we don't really see coming are the medieval murders, dressed up as a religious right, the very basic disregard for the sanctity of life. Bring in the old regime of British involvement in India and those who would bring back the Empire thing and Jon Stock has an excellent book to give us.

It's a mix of old and new, very much like India itself, struggling to move forward but restrained by centuries of regression. Raj is a likeable character, determined to do his job, maintain the pride he has for his family in Britain, a British Asian who is not particularly welcomed by either side of that cultural and ethnic divide. Unfortunately, events lead him into great danger, those around him suffer too and Whitehall, bless 'em, seem to want to pull strings that were cut many decades ago. Not much changes.
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on 8 May 2012
Having read his "Dead Spy Running, which was excellent, I wanted to go back to his early work to see how he progressed his work. His early work isnt easy to get, i had to resort to a used copy. This was well written and a very intertesting spy book, describing India's relationship with the British spooks. Stock chooses an innocent, new spy to become involved with an anti-Indian organisation and expand on how old and new India are developing. In that way it was like a Scandanavian crime book in that it is very descriptive of modern India. Well worth reading.
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on 14 October 2003
I was passed this book by a friend and, although I am not usually a fan of thrillers, I found it immensely engaging. As well as an absorbing plot, Jon Stock's familiarity and ease with India shine through and, by the end of it, I felt I had learnt a lot about a country I have only visited once as well as having been thoroughly entertained.
I would not be surprised if this book became something of a backpacking classic - the Indian equivalent of The Beach.
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on 26 September 2008
I found the writing spectacularly incompetent. Which is a shame, because the basic set-up - a Briton of Indian descent is sent to India as a spy - is intriguing. And the descriptions of India are wonderfully inviting, with a deft mastery of the telling detail. The plot outline is imaginative and engaging. The trouble comes with the author's failure to grasp the basic notion of a story.

We have 3 or 4 central goody-goodies - the roles are so muddy that it's hard to decide which - and 2 panto-villain baddies. The key turning point - the death of one of the baddies - is brought about by *none* of the goodies, but (depending on how you read it) either by the narrator's driver or by a family we never meet. None of the characters can take credit for bringing matters to a head, it just sort of happens (probably - so much of the key action happens off-page that it's hard to be sure). The story of the surviving villain is never resolved - did he get away with it, or did he pay some kind of price? And the ending - which is rattled off in a "will this do?" kind of way - doesn't really feel as if it belongs to the rest of the story... indeed doesn't read as if it were even written by the same author.

If Jon Stock ever tries travel writing, I'll read him like a shot. But I don't see that he can really handle action. Or people.

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on 11 August 2003
A wonderful read, the charachters are full of life, the locations are vivid and the story is realistic and exciting. I was impressed by the attention to detail and accuracy of the local knowledge.
One of the best books that i have read for a long time. I look forward to more from an inteligent and thouthful author.
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on 13 May 2015
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on 25 April 2012
I bought The Cardamom Club because I really enjoyed Jon Stock's other books "Games Traitors Play" and "Dead Spy Running", which are excellent. The Cardamom Club is an earlier work, and not a Daniel Marchant story - the central character is obviously a trail run for Marchant. Although I read the whole book (if I don't like a book, I bin it after about 30 pages) the story is slow and has 'dark' overtones, which personally I don't like in my entertainment. There is very little action compared to the other two titles and the central character is very 'thin' compared to his later Marchant creation. Definitely read the other two, but don't bother with this one - unless you're just really into India and like reading lots of descriptive narrative about it.
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